World Wildlife Fund (WWF)
The World Wildlife Fund, or WWF, is one of the biggest and best-known environmental organizations whose purported mission is to "conserve nature and reduce threats to the diversity of life on earth." The WWF also claims to enable local communities to conserve their natural resources and to transform worldwide market practices and policies to effect a sustainable kind of commodity consumption. Its panda logo is widely recognizable, becoming a sort of symbol for the environmental movement.
The WWF was founded 50 years ago by a group of concerned naturalists, business people, and political leaders who were concerned about the threat of extinction of much of the earth's wildlife. The organization has since grown into one of the biggest international networks today, present in more than 100 countries with more than five million members worldwide.
The organization focuses on 19 critical areas in the world because of the abundance and diversity of their wildlife and because these places face the most threats from destruction. Among these areas are the Amazon, the Mekong, the Galapagos Islands, the Arctic region, the islands of Borneo and Sumatra and some African savannas.
The WWF reaches out to communities around these habitats and gives them opportunities to improve their socioeconomic conditions as well as learn sustainable practices. The organization works hand-in-hand with different groups, such as governments, businesses, banks and scientists in various conservation projects. In particular, it works with governments as both a collaborator and a lobbyist, to get governments to implement laws and policies linked to sustainable development. The WWF gets funding for its activities from local businesses, concerned civil groups and the public.
Unfortunately, as with many non-profit organizations, the WWF has its own share of controversies. In 2009, the chairman of Cambodia's Commission for Conservation and Development of the Mekong River charged that the WWF misrepresented the situation of the wildlife on the river in order to increase its funds. In essence, the WWF was accused of stoking fears to solicit funding.
Another incident involves a German broadcaster who produced a documentary accusing the WWF of participating in greenwashing, a practice in which companies try to bolster their perceived environmental credentials via public relations campaigns. WWF was charged with collaborating with corporations such as Monsanto for purely financial gain. The documentary further charged that the WWF's high-impact approach on eco-tourism actually contributed to the destruction of the wildlife it had claimed to protect. Another allegation was that the WWF had certified and approved a palm oil plantation operated by Wilmar (a Singaporean company), although the plantation caused the destruction of rain forests in the area. These allegations were denied by WWF.
Another controversy stemmed from an ad purportedly initiated by the WWF showing jets flying around the World Trade Center, aiming to show that tsunamis were more destructive than the 9/11 crimes. The WWF later released a statement not only denying production of the ad but also condemning it as tasteless and insensitive. The WWF further stated that the ad, which had been proposed by a Brazilian ad agency, did not even meet its approval in the first place.
Moreover, despite the WWF's international popularity and success, there are some animal rights groups that have opposed its policies. They contend that the WWF did not even prohibit game hunting, whaling, or sealing.
There was also controversy over the WWF's relations with indigenous people. One complaint is that the establishment of national parks and reserves, especially in Africa, has led to the eviction of indigenous tribes from their homelands.
All these allegations lead one to question the merits of the WWF. As a large organization, the WWF has been guilty of a callous disregard for the real human cost of their environmental efforts and has compromised their ideals in a never ending quest for increased funding.